Yeager AGS (ANG)
Yeager AGS (ANG) is home to the 130th Airlift Wing which provides staff and operational support for an eight primary authorized aircraft C-130H unit to airdrop or airland forces. Contingency capability is maintained for European, Asian, and South American theaters while operating independently from forward operating or collocated base. Yeager AGS (ANG) is located at Charleston West Virginia and has a total of 74.8 acres under lease. Of this total, 43 acres are located on top of the hill on which the airport was built. Most of this area has been developed. Any expansion requires relocation of existing buildings to other areas, using vehicle parking areas, or acquiring additional land. The lower portion of the base has been developed along the access road to the airfield. This section contains approximately 33 acres. Development has been on benches made from leveling hill tops or cutting into the side of hills. The developed area in this lower section covers 9.3 acres. The remainder is made up of hillsides and ravines which are expensive to develop. The apron and taxiway at Yeager Airport were built in 1949. The first facilities built were Building 101-Base Supply, Building 107-Maintenance Hangar, and Building 102-Headquarters in 1951. The base currently has 31 buildings with a total square footage of 295,051. There are currently eight C-130 aircraft at this installation.
When opened in 1947, the airport had approximately 225,000 square yards of paving on runways, taxiways and loading ramps; 27,000 linear feet of electric cable for field lighting; 60,000 linear feet of drainage pipe ranging from 6 to 30 inches; and 15,000 feet of telephone conduit. An idea of the magnitude of the Airport project may be gathered from the following facts: 360 acres of mountainous land were cleared and grubbed before the excavation was started. The paving on taxi-ways, runways and aprons, if converted into 20-foot roadways eight inches thick, would have approximated 30 miles of highway. In moving the more than 9,000,000 cubic yards of earth and rock, 2,000,000 pounds of explosives were required.
The name of the airport was changed from Kanawha Airport to Yeager Airport in October 1985 to honor Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager. In January 1947, the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia National Guard, was established and activated three months later. This squadron began with 13 officers and 30 enlisted men, Col. James K. McLaughlin, Sr., commanding officer. The 167th made an outstanding record as a fighter group in World War II.
Secretary of Defense Recommendation: Its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Yeager Airport AGS by realigning eight C-130H aircraft to Pope/Fort Bragg to form a 16 aircraft Air Force Reserve/active duty associate unit, and by relocating flying-related expeditionary combat support (ECS) to Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport/Shepherd Field AGS (aerial port and fire fighters). The major command's capacity briefing reported that Yeager AGS could not support more than eight C-130s. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 246 jobs (156 direct jobs and 90 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Charleston, WV, Metropolitan Statistical economic area (0.1 percent).
Secretary of Defense Justification: The major command's capacity briefing reported Pittsburgh ARS land constraints prevented the installation from hosting more than 10 C-130 aircraft, and Yeager AGS cannot support more than eight C-130s. Careful analysis of mission capability indicates that it is more appropriate to increase the proposed airlift mission at Fort Bragg to an optimal 16 aircraft C-130 squadron, which provides greater military value and offers unique opportunities for Jointness.
Community Concerns: The West Virginia community, including elected officials, argued that approximately half of the 320 full-time employees would leave the unit if the planes are removed from the base and that this would cripple the mission effectiveness of a unit with over 100 percent endstrength. They also stated DoD's proposal would reduce joint training opportunities and significantly hinder the ability to rapidly transport a civil response team in the event of an emergency. The community contended DoD's claim that Yeager's ramp space could support no more than eight C-130s was refuted when 15 C-130s were on the ramp during a recent training exercise. Last, it would be difficult to recover from the loss of the base's $ million annual contribution to the local economy.
Commission Findings: The Department of Defense recommendation for realigning Pope Air Force Base, NC; closing the Pittsburgh IAP ARS PA; and realigning Yeager Air Guard Station (AGS), WV was part of a larger effort to restructure the C-130 fleet. The need for restructuring was driven by the age of the C-130E model aircraft and the participation in the replacement C-130J procurement program.
Given the importance of airlift to the Fort Bragg mission, there was concern regarding how the Air Force recommendation would be implemented. Other than the recommendation to form an Active Duty/Reserve Associate unit with the 16 C-130s transferred to Pope from Yeager and Pittsburgh, there was no discussion of how airlift operations would continue to be conducted in support of Fort Bragg. Particular concern focused on the loss of an execution planning cell and the informal working relationships that currently exists between elements at Fort Bragg and the 43rd Airlift Wing at Pope. In light of the importance of the Fort Bragg mission to national security, the Commission found the proposed action had the potential to detrimentally affect that mission. Therefore, the Commission modified the DoD recommendation to establish an Air Force Air Operation Support Group at Pope AFB.
The justification for realigning Yeager and closing Pittsburgh was based on a 2003 data call. These data indicated that Yeager was unable to host more than eight C-130s and that Pittsburgh was unable to host more than ten C-130s. The Air Force had previously determined that the optimal size for a C-130 squadron was 16, but that 12 was an acceptable number for an Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard Squadron. Whether the data were outdated or the response misinterpreted, the Commission found that the resulting conclusions were incorrect. The Wing Commander at Yeager AGS, WV reported that the unit can park 12 C-130s. Commission staff observed eleven aircraft parked at the installation during our base visit.
The Commission also found that the existing national security issues and the need to support the Fort Bragg mission overruled the deviations from the BRAC selection criteria. The Commission established a C-130 wing at Quonset State Airport Air Guard Station, Rhode Island; Channel Islands Air Guard Station, California; Little Rock AFB, Arkansas; and at Yeager Air Guard Station, West Virginia; consistent with the Commission's Air National Guard and Reserve Laydown plan.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1, 2 and 3, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Realign Yeager Airport Air Guard Station (AGS), West Virginia. Establish 8 PAA C-130H aircraft at Yeager Airport Air Guard Station (AGS), West Virginia.
The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.
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